The First World War: A Complete History

28 German territorial losses

Albert Einstein wrote from Berlin to the French writer and pacifist, Romain Rolland: ‘When posterity recounts the achievements of Europe, shall we let men say that three centuries of painstaking cultural effort carried us no farther than from religious fanaticism to the insanity of nationalism? In both camps today even scholars behave as though eight months ago they suddenly lost their heads.’ ***

For the first time since 1815, Russia was denied control of the Polish capital. It was a signal triumph for the Central Powers. The Germans now set their long-term sights on Finland, Russia’s province since the Swedes had been driven out in 1808.

He never flinched, he never cringed, but he died as one would wish all Englishmen to die—quietly and undramatically,

If the war was to be over by Christmas, as many believed, or at the latest by Easter 1915, tens of thousands of soldiers might be killed or wounded before the guns fell silent. Every army believed that it could crush its opponents within a few months.

Indian Corps and the 4th Corps will push through the barrage of fire regardless of loss, using reserves if required.

in towns and villages throughout the Ukraine, several thousand Jews were being murdered by anti-Bolshevik Whites, whose historic anti-Semitism, combining with a new hatred of the noted Jewish presence among the Bolshevik leadership, renewed the violent pogroms of a decade and a half earlier.

It was five months since Haig had told the British War Council: ‘The machine gun is a much over-rated weapon and two per battalion is more than sufficient.’ He was once again being proved terribly wrong.

Ludendorff and Hindenburg explained to the Kaiser that the problem was not only the German soldiers’ will and ability to fight, but also President Wilson’s deep reluctance to negotiate in any way with the Kaiser himself or his military chiefs. Grasping not only the nettle of military defeat, but also that of political democratisation, the Kaiser signed a proclamation establishing a Parliamentary regime. In the space of a single day, Germany’s militarism and autocracy were all but over.

Now it was the Germans who had to fall back to new defensive positions. Among the German soldiers who had fought throughout the retreat was Corporal Hitler. On August 4 he was awarded the Iron Cross, First Class, for ‘personal bravery and general merit’. This was an unusual decoration for a corporal. Hitler wore it for the rest of his life. The regimental adjutant who recommended him for it, Captain Hugo Guttman, was a Jew.

Of the 850,000 Indian soldiers who left the subcontinent during the First World War, 49,000 were killed in action. India also made her contribution to the material aspects of the Allied struggle, including the manufacture of 555 million bullets and more than a million shells. Over 55,000 Indians served in the Indian Labour Corps, as butchers, bakers, carpenters, shoemakers, tailors and washermen. Many did menial work within range of the enemy guns. In Delhi, a monumental arch records the Indian losses, India’s contribution in blood to the Allied war effort.

On June 3, Britain, France and Italy announced their full support for Polish, Czech and Yugoslav statehood. On the following day, encouraged to do so by the British, Dr Chaim Weizmann, the Zionist leader, met the Emir Feisal, the leader of the Arab Revolt, near the port of Akaba, and worked out with him what seemed to be a satisfactory Arab support for a Jewish National Home in Palestine. A senior British general noted after the meeting that both T.E. Lawrence, who helped set the meeting up, and Weizmann, ‘see the lines of Arab & Zionist policy converging in the not distant future

on November 6: in the rapidity and confusion of the advance, Douglas MacArthur, commanding an infantry brigade, was taken prisoner by his own side. Thinking he was a German officer, vigilant American sentries brought him in at pistol point. The mistake was quickly discovered, once MacArthur had taken off his unusual floppy hat and long scarf.

the Germans were ‘picking out the revolutionists and Liberals from the many Russian prisoners of war, furnishing them with money and false passports and papers, and sending them back to Russia to stir up a revolution

Within seven months, more than 600,000 Armenians were massacred. Of the 500,000 deported during that same period, more than 400,000 perished as a result of the brutalities and privations of the southward march into Syria and Mesopotamia. By September as many as a million Armenians were dead, the victims of what later became known as genocide, later still as ethnic cleansing. A further 200,000 were forcibly converted to Islam.